The structure of Chinese names

WillyAbs

Member
Russian
Hello, everybody,

My question has two parts:
1. How does the Chineese name devide in the firstname(given name) and lastname(common for the family)?
2. How to address a Chineese person in English using 'Mr', 'Mrs' and so on? The rule is that in this case we use only the lastname.

If a person's name is, for instance, Lee Kuan Yew how should i say:
-Mr Lee,
-Mr Kuan,
-Mr Kuan Yew, or
-Mr Lee Kuan Yew?

If his wife and children have the names with common part is this part the lastname?
 
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  • SuperXW

    Senior Member
    When Chinese names getting Romanized, the situation is rather chaotic.
    People in PRC, Taiwan, Hong Kong and other places like Malaysia, Singapore, and from different generations, have very different ways to render their names. There's no simple way to tell what a Chinese name really is just by looking at its "English version". Bear in mind that Chinese itself have two writing systems, hundreds of dialects.

    To give you an easy answer, I would advise you to add "Mr./Ms." directly to whatever full name you got.
    If you want to make it short, better ask the person how he/she would like to be addressed.

    By the way, in your case, Lee Kuan Yew is an Cantonese transliteration. The person is probably from Hong Kong. Lee is a common family name, and Kuan Yew sounds like a common given name. So, Mr./Ms. Lee.

    1. How does the Chineese name devide in the fistname(given name) and lastname(common for the family)?
    Don't use "first name/last name" concept on Chinese. A Chinese family name comes first; a given name comes after the family name.
    A Chinese family name is usually a single character. Sometimes two characters, but very rare.
    A given name usually has one or two character(s).
    For example: Lee (family name) Kuan Yew (two-character given name)
     
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    fxlle

    Senior Member
    Cantonese
    Just make a illustration:
    毛澤東
    毛, here it's the common name for a bunch of families.
    澤東, They're the given name.
    You can say Mr Mao here.
    Archaic people also got the second given name, like the chief Mao, he also named 潤之.
    毛=姓
    澤東=名
    潤之=字.
    In modern china, now we don't have 字 any more. what we gained is only 姓名.
    About his wives and children, his wives had their respective names in different 姓,such as 江青 and 楊開慧. Only children had the same 姓 as his/her father, such as 毛岸英. And after marrying with each others, his wives all had their consistent respective 姓 and never change.
     
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    WillyAbs

    Member
    Russian
    Thank you!

    So either 'Mr Lee' or 'Mr Lee Kuan Yew' are Ok. As for the person, he's the first PM of Singapore and in Russia he's offten referred to as a very effective polititian. If I had to say a Chinese name off the top of my head I'd say Lee Kuan Yew or Mao Tse-Tung.
     

    SuperXW

    Senior Member
    Just make a illustration:
    毛澤東
    毛, here it's the common name for a bunch of families.
    澤東, They're the given name.
    You can say Mr Mao here.
    Archaic people also got the second given name, like the cheif Mao, he also named 潤之.
    毛=姓
    澤東=名
    潤之=字.
    In modern china, now we don't have 字 any more. what we gained is only 姓名.
    About his wives and children, his wives had their respective names in different 姓,such as 江青 and 楊開慧. Only children had the same 姓 as his/her father, such as 毛岸英. And after marrying with each others, his wives all had their consistent respective 姓 and never change.
    A few Chinese, especially who has adapted a Western style in early ages, did render there names into a mixed Western-Chinese way. Family name comes last; English name could be added at the front, and even the husband's family name, and middle name(s).
    Typical examples include some female politicians in Hong Kong, such as 陳方安生, 葉劉淑儀, 范徐麗泰 (husband's family name + own family name + given name). Commonly known as just Anson Chan in English, 陳方安生's "English full name" is amazingly confusing: Anson Maria Elizabeth Chan Fang On-sang. (English given name + middle name? + middle name? + husband's family name + own family name + Chinese given name) :eek:
    According to some researches, there are 11 ways for Hong Kongese to make up their English names.
     
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    zhg

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    There are only a handful of common复姓, (last name with more that one character) so I think that it's very easy to identify them, no need for remembering a rule or two, you just have to remember them.

    Secondly, usually children take one family name from their fathers(or less frequently their mothers) as their family names. However there are some exceptions that some names are combinations of their fathers- and mothers' family names, for instance Li Yang,but generally people will assume his or her surname is Li, address him or her Mr./Ms.

    Thirdly nowadays if a woman is married to a man, she still remains her own family name, and only be addressed with her husband's last/family name in combination with the title Ms.

    Last name goes first (usually one character unless it's 复姓)and the rest part is first name.( usually with one to two characters or seldom, in some unusual cases as SuperXW has mentioned, more than two )just in case you are asking how to analyze a Chinese Name.
     
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    SuperXW

    Senior Member
    To clarify, I was talking about Chinese names being rendered into English.
    Other members may be talking about how Chinese perceive Chinese names (in Chinese characters).
    It's much easier for us to understand a Chinese name in Chinese characters, since we already recognize all the common patterns and meanings.
     

    strad

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    By the way, in your case, Lee Kuan Yew is an Cantonese transliteration. The person is probably from Hong Kong. Lee is a common family name, and Kuan Yew sounds like a common given name. So, Mr./Ms. Lee.
    Lee Kuan Yew is a Hakka romanization, actually, of the name 李光耀. He was the first prime minister of Singapore.

    His full name is actually Harry Lee Kuan Yew, and when you see a Chinese name in this format it is almost always English given name followed by Chinese surname followed by Chinese given name.
     

    SuperXW

    Senior Member
    Lee Kuan Yew is a Hakka romanization, actually, of the name 李光耀. He was the first prime minister of Singapore.

    His full name is actually Harry Lee Kuan Yew, and when you see a Chinese name in this format it is almost always English given name followed by Chinese surname followed by Chinese given name.
    My mistake, sorry!
    I'll definitely recognize 李光耀 in Chinese, but I'm not familiar with his English spelling Lee Kuan Yew.
     

    Youngfun

    Senior Member
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    For people with mixed Western + Chinese given name, there is some confusion...

    My legal full name is:
    Italian given name + Chinese given name + Chinese family name.

    But Italy allows the family name to be written first, so it can also become:
    Chinese family name + Italian given name + Chinese given name.
     
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